BOOT CAMP 164 (01/03/01)




If you followed last week's introduction to PC spring cleaning your computer hardware will be clean and shiny and hopefully running at peak efficiency, but what about the software?


After a few months of regular use most PCs show clear signs of slowing down. Windows takes longer to load, applications that used to fly along now take ages to open or access files and crashes and lock-ups happen more frequently. These are all signs that the hard disc drive is full of clutter and its filing system is badly disorganised or 'fragmented', and it's only going to get worse, unless you do something about it!


The first step is to remove all unwanted and unused software, paying special attention to those freebie and demo programs and games loaded from magazine cover-mount CD-ROMs that you may have forgotten about. Ideally you will have an uninstaller program on your PC, like CleanSweep, Nuts and Bolts etc, which monitors each installation so it can be completely removed. If not get one, they're a real investment and used properly they'll keep your PC hard disc drive running smoothly. Otherwise you will have to use Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel or the applications own uninstaller utility – if it has one – which you may find listed alongside the application on the Start > Programs list, or in the application's folder when opened in Windows Explorer. Remove only one program at a time restart the PC each time, watching out for any error messages during the re-boot.


Windows 98 and ME have a useful disk cleanup utility (Start > Programs > System Tools), which empties the Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin and the Temporary folder and this is worth running every week or so.


To get your hard disc filing system back into shape you should run the Windows disc defragmenter or 'Defrag' utility, in fact you should be doing that at least once a month, weekly if the PC is in daily use and you do a lot of web browsing or regularly download material. Fortunately it's never too late to start, but before you run Defrag get into the habit of shutting down all running programs, empty the Recycle bin, disable power management and switch off any screensavers and anti virus software. The latter can usually be disabled from the System Tray (next to the clock), right-click on the icon and select Exit or Shutdown. If any programs are left running in the background and they accesses the hard disc, Defrag will forced to restart and it'll never finish the job. To maximise the space on your hard disc empty your web browser's cache (in Internet Explorer click on Internet Options on the Tools menu, select the General tab and click Delete Files). When you've done that run the Scandisk utility which can be found by clicking Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools.


Now you are ready to defrag. There are actually several versions of Defrag, the best one can be found alongside Scandisk in System Tools in the Accessories folder. This one has the option to optimise your hard disc's file structure by grouping the most frequently used programs together. (When Defrag opens click the Settings butt and check the item 'Rearrange files so my programs start faster'). There's another slightly faster but less thorough version available from My Computer (right-click drive C:/ and select Properties and the Tools tab). If you are using Windows 98 and either of these two versions consistently 'hang', (and you've switched off all running programs) then try this. Insert your Windows 98 CD-ROM, if it starts automatically click on 'Browse This CD', otherwise use Windows Explorer to open the disc and work your way to the Tools and Mtsutil folders, right-click on Defrag.inf and select Install. Exit and re-boot, Defrag will run and give your PC's filing system a really comprehensive once-over.


Now that your PC's filing system is in apple-pie order it's time to clean up the Registry. As regular readers will know the Windows Registry is a huge set of files that configure your PC, stores user preferences and keep tabs on all of the software loaded on the hard disc. Every time you install new software or make any changes to the way Windows or your programs work and look it's entered in the Registry, however, when you delete programs redundant Registry entries are often left behind and can sometimes cause conflicts. There is a basic Registry checker utility in Windows (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information, select Registry Checker on the Tools menu) but it's only going to find the most serious faults. For a more in depth check you should use a Registry Cleaner (see Software),


RegClean will fix most common problems, but there is an even better third-party alternative called Reg Cleaner, developed by Finnish Student Jouni Vuorio. This excellent freeware program automatically identifies redundant and corrupt entries and lets you manually decide which ones to delete. It also backs up any changes, so they can be undone, if anything unfortunate happens. You can download Reg Cleaner from:, it's less than 500kb in size so it should only take a few minutes. It’s self-extracting, so click on the downloaded file and follow the instructions.


Before you run Reg Clean, or do anything to the Registry it's wise to make a backup. You can do this by going to Run on the Start menu, type in 'regedit' (without the inverted commas), when the Registry Editor opens go to the Registry menu and click on Export Registry File, select a location where you will know to find it, call the file regbak and click Save. If anything goes wrong simply double-click on your newly created 'regbak.reg' file and the Registry will be automatically restored.

Next week – Presentation on your PC





Over time the files on a PC's hard disc drive become disorganised, 'defragging' the drive restores order and speeds up reading and writing data



Windows utilities that help to reduce power consumption by switching off components when they are not being used. It can be disabled by clicking on the Power Management icon in Control Panel (Start > Settings, or Control Panel icon in My Computer)



A Windows utility that checks the integrity of data stored on a hard disc drive, identifies problems, and where possible, puts them right



The Function keys running along the top of your keyboard do different things according to the application in use at the time. F1 is almost always help, but what about the others? Here's an easy way to find out what they all do in Word 2000. Right click into an empty area next to a Toolbar at the top of the screen, and select Customize from the drop-down menu. Put a check mark next to 'Function Key display' and a new toolbar will appear at the bottom of the screen, with clickable buttons showing what each key does, plus their alternative functions, when you press the Alt, Shift or Ctrl keys.

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